Dr. Kardong-Edgren is Assistant Professor, and Dr. Emerson is Associate Professor, College of Nursing, Washington State University, Spokane, Washington.
The authors have no financial or proprietary interest in the materials presented herein.
The authors thank Naomi Lungstrom, Cecile Proctor, and Saleh Elgiadi for their help in this study.
Address correspondence to Suzan Kardong-Edgren, PhD, RN, Assistant Professor, Washington State University, Box 1495 College of Nursing, Spokane WA 99210; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
The adoption of new teaching technologies “reflects the direction of nursing education” (Jeffries, 2005, p. 4). One of the new technologies being adopted in nursing is the creation of digitally recorded downloadable lectures or “podcasts.” The term podcast, a combination of iPod® and broadcasting, emerged only in 2004 (Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2005). Podcasting is defined as the downloading of audio or a combination of audio and video files from the Internet to an iPod or MP3 player (Pew Internet and American Life Project, 2005), such as music, television shows, or college lectures, to listen to or view at one’s leisure. In addition, a podcast can also be listened to or viewed on a computer.
The use of podcasting is only now beginning to be explored and evaluated within the academic community. According to the Student Monitor’s Lifestyle and Media Study (Windham, 2007), iPods replaced the Internet as the “in” thing on U.S. college campuses in 2006. They represent another rapidly adopted technology by today’s “digital natives” (Prensky, 2001). Podcasts are being used in a variety of ways on college campuses (Lum, 2006). In 2004, all incoming students at Duke University received iPods preloaded with orientation materials. At another university, the college president used a podcast and a blog to prepare students for a tuition increase. At a large U.S. university with a 45% Latino student body, podcasts have been used to help students increase their command of the English language (Lum, 2006). Faculty are using them to provide supplemental lectures on special topics, enrich guest lectures, and provide feedback on student assignments (Skiba, 2006).
Washington State University has a long history of using emerging technology. It is a recognized leader in the pioneering of distance nursing education. The program uses real-time digital video course broadcasting across the state to two distance campuses for undergraduate education. Thus, the adoption of lecture podcasts by our faculty and support of our information technology department was not unusual. Lecture podcasting began in our program in the spring 2007 academic semester. Faculty in three courses—a first semester 4-credit combined pathophysiology and pharmacology course, a second semester 4-credit acute and chronic illness in adults course, and a third semester 3-credit child bearing nursing course—were the first to adopt podcasting of their lectures.
In this article, podcasting is defined as the digital recording of a didactic lecture that is then archived on the course’s Blackboard® site. Blackboard is the software program used by the College of Nursing to provide course support. Students are able to listen to the lecture from their computers or download it to an iPod or MP3 player. Faculty members wanted to evaluate students’ use and perceptions of podcasting; an online course survey was posted in the spring 2007 semester to gather data. The purpose of this online survey was to assess our students’ use and perceptions of podcast lectures in a large university-based nursing program in the northwestern United States. Questions covered topics such as familiarity with podcasting and podcasts, how often and where podcasts were used, and students’ perceptions of the podcasts’ effect on class attendance and grades. Findings were used to evaluate the need for the continuation or deletion of this technological enhancement for learning.
General Academic Research in Podcasting
There is little research literature published about the academic use of podcasting in general or by nursing students specifically. This is not surprising because many faculty and students remain unaware of podcasting and its potential uses (Skiba, 2006). Edirisingha, Rizza, and Rothwell stated, “Although the academic community is showing strong interest, research into students’ experience with podcasting is in its very early stages” (2007). These researchers reported on one aspect of a national project, “Informal Mobil Podcasting and Learning Adaptation,” in the United Kingdom. Their study evaluated podcast support of student learning in a core intercultural communication course for Linguistics and Communications using focus groups and personal interviews. Fifty percent of students reported not using the podcasts, with the most frequently cited reason being that they were too busy. Fifty-three percent of those who did listen to them reported no particular pattern of podcast use. Forty-seven percent reported listening to podcasts while doing nothing else, whereas 33% took notes while listening to the podcast. Fifty-three percent reported that podcasting helped them prepare for seminars and other graded work. Students liked the ability to self-pace their listening and learning.
Preuss (2008) conducted a historical comparison of 25 U.S. community college courses comparing grade point average and withdrawal rates before and after faculty adoption of podcasting. Generally, courses with podcasts had fewer student withdrawals and lower absenteeism; in some cases, these results were at statistically significant levels. Ten of 18 courses showed improvements in cumulative grade point averages. Students liked the opportunity to review new or complex material, felt that podcasts helped them be successful in their course work, and were able to make up missed course work due to illness or work. Podcasts were not password protected and were generally available on the Internet. Interestingly, faculty received many thank you notes through e-mail from students at other institutions, who also accessed their podcasts.
Health Professions Research in Podcasting
Most currently published nursing literature regarding podcasting reports anecdotal use by students and faculty or provides scholarly opinion about its use (Maag, 2006; Skiba & Barton, 2006). In a survey of 6,000 medical students and physicians, Sandars and Schroter (2007) reported low use of podcasts by participants, although many expressed a willingness to learn how to use them. Palmer and Devitt (2007) increased medical students’ positive perceptions of podcasting from 9% to 41% after a demonstration of the technology. Pilarski, Johnstone, Pettepher, and Osheroff (2008) found that first-year medical students who listened to lecture recordings thought they learned course materials better and experienced less stress and anxiety. Lecture recordings did not affect classroom attendance.
Forbes and Hickey (2008) found that nursing students listened to podcasts on their computers rather than iPods or MP3/MP4 players. Students thought that podcasts positively affected their learning. English as a second language students reported that the ability to pause and replay lectures enhanced their learning. Of note, students reported that they would choose a faculty member who used podcasts over one who did not, perceiving them as more caring.
Bassendowski, Petrucka, Debs-Ivall, Hall, and Shand (2008) reported a 3-year ongoing study by the Canadian Nurses Association and the University of Saskatchewan evaluating information and communication use of technologies such as podcasts for students and nurses in clinical practice. This study concludes in 2010.
The Uses and Gratification Expectancy (UGE) model was recently designed for use with technology and e-learning and provides a framework for this study (Mondi, Woods, & Rafi, 2008). Underpinnings of the UGE are found in the constructivist theory of learning, which posits that learning is most effective when the student engages in tasks that are meaningful to the learner, who chooses to download and listen to a lecture because he or she expects that this action will help achieve a learning goal. The UGE model uses five constructs to explain a user’s motivation for seeking, using, and continuing to use an electronic media technology: cognitive needs, affective needs, personal integrative needs, social integrative needs, and entertainment needs.
Three of these constructs were reflected in the study survey questions. The cognitive use and expectancy construct is defined as a student seeking information and understanding. The affective use and expectancy construct refers to a student’s search for pleasant feelings and emotional fulfillment achieved through e-learning technology. The technology should be intuitive for the learner, focusing intellectual capital on learning and not the technology itself. The personal integrative use and expectancy construct refers to a student’s need for a feeling of self-regulation and competency. Personal control over when and how one learns is important. The learner sets the pace and his or her own study objectives.
Design and Method
A descriptive study design was used to answer the research question: How do nursing students use and perceive the usefulness of digitally recorded downloadable course lectures? After obtaining the university’s institutional review board approval, 16 survey questions about student use and perceptions of podcasted lectures were written by the Associate Dean of Information Technology and several interested undergraduate faculty members. Permission was obtained from the course instructors to post the survey on each course’s Blackboard site.
The survey was posted using Zoomerang®, a free online survey program. A notice about the survey and a link to Zoomerang was posted on each course Blackboard site during the last 3 weeks of the semester. The link was accompanied by the following statement: “We are conducting an online survey about your use and perceptions about podcasting in this course, over the past semester. Survey results will be used to determine if this technology should be offered in other courses.” The Zoomerang survey results from the three courses were automatically aggregated into one data set. Data points recorded by the Zoomerang program included the number of times the survey was accessed, individual responses, and automatic calculation of percentages for each answer. Qualitative responses were also elicited.
All students enrolled in courses using podcasts were verbally invited to participate in the survey by the faculty in each course. During the spring 2007 semester, 243 of 420 students enrolled in the three courses accessed the survey. Two hundred ten students responded, yielding a 58% response rate.
All Zoomerang data are reported in percentages, which were automatically calculated by the software. Eighty-eight percent of students reported that English was their first language. Eighty-three percent of students owned an MP3 player or iPod, but surprisingly only 28% reported familiarization with a podcasted lecture before their introduction in our program. Fifty-five percent of students reported not downloading the podcasted lectures to their iPods or MP3 players because the lectures were available via computer from their course Blackboard sites.
Findings are grouped and reported by three specific UGE concepts. The cognitive use and gratification construct refers to using e-learning to seek understanding and information. Thirty-three percent of students reported listening to a podcast one to two times. Thirty-seven percent of students reported listening to podcasts in no particular pattern, whereas 22% reported that they listened to them 3 to 4 days before a test. Eighty-eight percent of students reported that podcasts made a difference in their understanding of the material. One student’s statement reflected this:
I’d just like to let you know that the podcasts are the best asset to my learning in your class. Thank you for providing them. It is so nice to be able to hear things again, the way you put it. I can actually hear you in my head when I’m taking the tests! Throughout nursing school, I have been an “okay” studier. I go back through PowerPoint slides of each class and read my little notes, but I don’t always understand the first time around. Having the option to hear the teacher say it again helps so much! Just thought I’d pass that along for ya!
The UGE affective concept refers to the pleasant feelings or emotional fulfillment engendered by e-learning. Fifty-eight percent of students reported always accessing podcasts off campus, where they were less hurried. Forty-six percent always used a lap-top to listen to the podcasts. Eighty-five percent of students reported taking notes while listening to a podcast. Seventy-three percent listened to the entire podcast, whereas 39% reported listening to portions of the podcast. Seventeen percent reported listening to podcasts while performing activities such as commuting back and forth to school, jogging, exercising, and performing housework. A student’s comment reflected this concept:
I love podcasts! I have attention deficit disorder and historically I have tried to record lectures on my own, but podcast is so much better. It is really hard for me to keep focused during lecture, I think especially as a first semester student. It’s all so overwhelming. Listening to the lectures afterwards really helps me. I would usually spend “Sunday morning with Dr. E.” I put on a pot of coffee, crack my books and listen to my lecture. It made the class so much more enjoyable. Especially for students with learning disabilities like myself it’s really a nice technological addition. Thank you very much!
The UGE personal integrative concept refers to self-regulation and competency. The Table reports student perceptions of course podcasting, which were all positive. Seventy-seven percent of students thought the podcasts made a difference in their course grades. A student’s comment reflected this concept:
The podcasts were very helpful to me and did not influence my attendance. I did better on the tests when I listened to the podcasts between lectures.
Table: Student Perceptions of Podcasts
Our findings indicate that our students owned iPods and MP3 players but were not familiar with their use for podcasted lectures until they were introduced to them by the faculty. Student use of podcasts grew as they became familiar with the technology. This information provided support for the continued use and support of pod-casting by faculty and the information technology department.
Students overwhelmingly reported that the availability of podcasts did not change their class attendance; however, approximately 64% of students reported that podcasts helped them catch up if they missed a class. Faculty reported increasing absenteeism over the semester as students discovered course podcasting. This has prompted varying added strategies by faculty for those students attending class, ranging from pop quizzes to increased class discussion and interaction.
This study was conducted in one nursing program in the northwestern United States. No student demographic data was gathered except for English as a first language. Data from multiple courses were combined, eliminating breakdown of data by course.
A new technology, the ability to podcast lectures, became available for use with nursing students at our College of Nursing. A descriptive study was performed at the end of the semester to assess students’ use and perceptions of podcasted lectures. The Nursing and Information Technology departments used the information to substantiate the continued provision of this service. Although only 30% of students were familiar with podcasted lectures at the beginning of the semester, more than half of our students used the podcasts after being introduced to them. Students thought that podcasts facilitated their learning. Podcasts are one of the new technology tools available to nurse educators to enhance student learning.
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Student Perceptions of Podcasts
|Podcasts were easy to access.||91|
|Podcasts helped clarify concepts discussed during class.||87|
|Podcasts helped me to prepare for homework and examinations.||85|
|Podcasts helped me to understand the subject matter better.||82|
|Podcasts were clear and easy to understand.||79|
|I used podcasts to take notes.||76|
|Podcasts were a good supplement to Blackboard.||64|
|I like the format of the podcasts.||56|
|Podcasts helped me to organize and structure my learning activities.||52|
|It is easy to follow parts of the classroom discussion when listening to podcasts.||44|
|I listened to podcasts while reviewing course materials on Blackboard.||32|
|Podcasts helped to stimulate my interest in the subject.||31|
|Podcasts helped me to stay focused on the lecture during class.||24|
|I listened to podcasts without use of visual aids or course materials.||17|
|Podcasts helped me catch up when I missed class.||67|